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Amnesty ban on Pegasus unveils role, urges Indian politician | India

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The Chief Minister of the Indian state of Assam has called for Amnesty International’s ban in the country and accused him of conspiring to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his role in the explosive Pegasus leaks, which have exerted strong pressure on the Modis government.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chief Minister of Assam State and member of the Modis Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party, asserted that Amnesty’s role in investigating a number of citizens and political leaders in countries of the whole world, including India, appearing on a leaked data list was part of a long history of conspiracies against India’s democratic fabric and its leadership.

He alleged that Amnesty International had made efforts to encourage left-wing terrorism in India and to defame India and Prime Minister Modi as well as to create discontent among sections of Indian society.

Quick guide

What does the Pegasus project data contain?

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What is in the data breach?

The data breach is a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that since 2016 have allegedly been selected as those of people of interest by government clients of NSO Group, which sells surveillance software. The data also contains the time and date when the numbers were selected or entered into a system. Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit journalism organization, and Amnesty International initially had access to the list and shared access with 16 media organizations, including the Guardian. More than 80 journalists collaborated for several months within the framework of the Pegasus project. Amnestys Security Lab, technical partner of the project, carried out the forensic analyzes.

What does the leak indicate?

The consortium believes the data points to potential targets for government client NSOs identified prior to possible monitoring. Although the data is an indication of intent, the presence of a number in the data does not reveal whether there has been an attempt to infect the phone with spyware such as Pegasus, the phone monitoring tool. company signatures, or whether an attempt was successful. The presence in the data of a very small number of fixed lines and US numbers, which NSO is technically impossible to access with its tools, reveals that some targets were selected by NSO customers when they could not be infected with Pegasus. However, forensic examinations of a small sample of cellphones with numbers on the list found strong correlations between the time and date of a number in the data and the onset of Pegasus activity in some. case as little as a few seconds.

What did the forensic analysis reveal?

Amnesty examined 67 smartphones where attacks were suspected. Of these, 23 were successfully infected and 14 showed signs of attempted penetration. For the other 30, the tests were inconclusive, in several cases because the handsets had been replaced. Fifteen of the phones were Android devices, none of which showed evidence of successful infection. However, unlike iPhones, phones that use Android do not record the types of information needed for Amnesty’s detective work. Three Android phones showed signs of targeting, such as Pegasus-related SMS messages.

Amnesty shared backup copies of four iPhones with Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto research group specializing in the study of Pegasus, who confirmed they showed signs of Pegasus infection. Citizen Lab also peer reviewed Amnesty’s forensic methods and found them to be robust.

Which NSO clients were selecting numbers?

Although the data is organized in clusters, showing individual NSO clients, it does not say which NSO client was responsible for selecting a given number. NSO claims to sell its tools to 60 customers in 40 countries, but refuses to identify them. By closely examining the pattern of targeting by individual clients in the leaked data, media partners were able to identify 10 governments suspected of being responsible for target selection: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia , Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Citizen Lab also found evidence that the 10 were customers of NSO.

What does the NSO group say?

You can read the full statement from NSO groups here. The company has always claimed that it does not have access to the data of its target customers. Through its lawyers, NSO said the consortium made incorrect assumptions about customers using the company’s technology. He said the number of 50,000 was exaggerated and the list could not be a list of numbers targeted by governments using Pegasus. Lawyers said NSO had reason to believe that the list the consortium viewed was not a list of numbers targeted by governments using Pegasus, but rather could be part of a larger list of numbers that could have been used by customers of the NSO Group for other purposes. . They said it was a list of numbers anyone could look up on an open source system. After further questions, lawyers said the consortium based its findings on a misleading interpretation of the data disclosed from accessible and overt basic information, such as HLR search services, which has no bearing on the target list of clients of Pegasus or any other NSO. products … we still don’t see any correlation between these listings and anything related to the use of NSO Group technologies. After the post, they explained that they considered a “target” to be a phone that had been infected successfully or attempted (but failed) by Pegasus, and reiterated that the list of 50 000 phones was too long for it to represent “targets”. “from Pegasus. They said that the fact that a number was on the list did not in any way indicate whether it had been selected for surveillance using Pegasus.

What is HLR research data?

The term HLR, or Home Location Register, refers to a database essential for the operation of mobile telephone networks. These registers keep records of phone users’ networks and their general locations, as well as other identifying information that is commonly used to route calls and text messages. Telecom and surveillance experts say HLR data can sometimes be used at the start of a surveillance attempt, to determine if it is possible to connect to a phone. The consortium understands that NSO customers have the ability, via an interface to the Pegasus system, to conduct HLR research investigations. It is not clear whether Pegasus operators are required to conduct HRL research surveys through its interface to use its software; an NSO source pointed out that its customers may have different unrelated reasons for performing HLR searches through an NSO system.

Thank you for your opinion.

Amnesty, a global human rights organization, had first access to a leaked list of more than 50,000 phone numbers allegedly selected for possible surveillance by government clients of NSO Group, which sells the surveillance software. Pegasus.

Among the figures on the leaked list were dozens of Indian journalists, activists, lawyers and government critics, including Modi’s main rival, Rahul Gandhi. The opposition congressional party alleged that the Modis government was a client of NSO and deployed the Pegasus spyware against its own citizens and political opponents.

NSO has always maintained that it does not operate the systems it sells to controlled government customers and that it does not have access to the data of its target customers.

In statements released through its lawyers, NSO said it would continue to investigate all credible allegations of abuse and take appropriate action. He said that the fact that a number was on the list did not in any way indicate whether that number had been selected for monitoring using Pegasus. But the list is believed to be indicative of those identified as persons of interest by NSO’s government clients.

Amnesty also offered technical support to the investigation, with its security labs performing forensic tests and analyzes on several phones to determine if they had been hacked by the Pegasus spyware.

Amnesty has already come under increasing pressure from the Modi government, including multiple raids on its offices, after issuing several reports criticizing the government’s human rights record. In September last year, Amnesty had to shut down its operations in India after its accounts were frozen by the government in what it described as a witch hunt.

The Congress Party has called for an independent investigation to find out whether the Modis government was using Pegasus spyware.

Sarma was among several senior BJP officials who alleged that the Pegasus leaks had no basis in the truth and that Amnesty’s role proved him to be part of a global conspiracy against India. I strongly condemn this conspiracy and call for a ban on the activities of those organizations that are bent on defaming and harming our nation, he said.

Nonetheless, pressure continued to mount on the Modi government over Pegasus’ allegations, including treason charges. Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal who recently defeated the BJP in state elections, urged Indian opposition parties to unite to challenge the watchdog state of the Modi government, and called Pegasus dangerous and fierce.

Three things make democracy: the media, the judiciary and the Election Commission and Pegasus captured all three, said Banerjee, whose nephews’ phone numbers were on the leaked data list.

Banerjee called on the Supreme Court to step in and investigate the surveillance of Indian citizens.

Save the country, save democracy, she said.

Sources

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2/ https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/jul/21/ban-amnesty-over-pegasus-leaks-role-indian-politician-urges

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